BENNY Lynch just won’t lay down. Much like the man himself, who refused to be beaten by Filipino boxer Small Montana over 15 gruelling rounds back in 1937, the legend refuses to slip anonymously into the past.

Indeed, the fascination with Scotland’s first world boxing champion not only continues, it thrives. More than 70 years after his death in 1946, the Glasgow Film Festival is set to screen a new documentary, Benny (with a voiceover by Robert Carlyle) telling Lynch’s life story. This week the Citizens’ Theatre in Glasgow is staging a new biographical play which promises to reveal a new take on the life – and death – of Benny Lynch.

Meanwhile, director Gillies MacKinnon is rumoured to be co-producing a new movie about the life of Lynch. And moves continue to raise money to erect a statue of the boxer in Glasgow.

But what’s the abiding attraction of this five feet five inches tall and eight stones of pure Gorbals aggression? Although described by Scots boxing champion Jim Watt as "an awesome fighter", Lynch was also a frightening alcoholic. So why did screen legends such as Bobby Carlyle and Norman Wisdom once dream of playing Benny Lynch in films of his life? (The latter is not as unlikely as it sounds; Wisdom was a one-time fairground boxer in Argentina who had grown up in Scotland.)

Is the legend punching above its own weight?Interviewed by the Herald last year, Lynch's son, Robert, described his father as "always the underdog, no matter who he fought. That's why the crowd loved him".

Part of our continuing fascination, perhaps, lies in his untimely death at the age of just 33. Do we love Lynch because he was an anti-hero, a fundamentally flawed creature – and Scots love heroic failures?

Benny documentary producer Shane Tobin first became interested in the self-destructive Lynch when he was in Glasgow filming another documentary when he noticed the Clutha Vaults bar mural of Benny Lynch. “It was so iconic," he recalls, "it really grabbed my attention and I asked the taxi driver [who the boxer was]. From that moment I knew we had to finally tell the Benny Lynch tale.

“It’s fascinating. And his Scottish and Irish ancestry, and the unique ties between Ireland and Scotland, made it a perfect fit for Irish television and Scottish television.”

Shane Tobin adds: “Benny seemed to capture the public’s imagination. He was such a hero at the age of 22, but at 33 he was dead. That doesn’t happen to sporting legends these days. Can you imagine someone like Andy Murray going down this road? But Benny is now part of folk memory.”

Benny Lynch was almost counted out before he made his way into the world in 1913 in a tenement flat at 17 Florence Street in Glasgow’s Gorbals. His Donegal-born parents had arrived in a city in which the main fight for survival was against endemic poverty, tuberculosis – and the ravages of alcohol. Each new wave of immigrants battled for work and some sense of grip on life.

In 1920 there were 50,000 people living in the Gorbals, a wedge of land with three borders about a mile long, and the former site of a leper colony. It would become a notorious place to live. And at the time it had 130 pubs – what chance did a young man have?

The Lynch family's oldest son died from a head injury he received at work and young Benny had a rough early life. As a youth, he was slashed in the face by a gang and he was once fined 10 shillings in court for street fighting.

But then Sammy Wilson came along. A local bookmaker who opened a boxing club, Wilson noted Benny Lynch's potential and became his manager. Wilson soon had the teenager running up and down the nearby Cathkin Braes to train, soaking his hands daily in local fishmonger’s brine water to toughen up the skin.

Benny Lynch first fought for money in the unlicensed boxing booths in Glasgow’s Gallowgate for a £1 prize. By the age of 19 he had fought 30 official professional fights and about the same number of unofficial booth fights. In 1934, he hit the big time. Lynch took part in the first ever boxing bout at Glasgow's Kelvin Hall, and a 10,000-strong crowd saw him beat Carlo Cavagnoli, the European Flyweight champion.

Lynch looked unstoppable – and he was. In September 1935 at the Belle Vue in Manchester, he became Scotland's first ever world boxing champion, beating Jackie Brown in a bout that lasted only four minutes and 42 seconds. Brown had been knocked down eight times.

On his return to Glasgow, around 20,000 people crowded into Central Station to greet the flyweight champion and more than 100,000 lined the streets to watch him parade his trophy. Yet despite his popularity, Glasgow City Council didn't feel that his triumph on the canvas merited an official reception. Did this decision by the political elite result in Lynch being further elevated in the minds of ordinary people?

“Maybe officialdom never got behind him, and I don’t know why, but yes, the people did,” says Sean Tobin. “He is like the ultimate Irish story, everything that is good and bad about a man. His story is similar in terms of the drink he took. And of course his family came from Donegal.

“But that’s perhaps what the council didn’t like. Maybe they didn’t want him as a champion. But the people did. He fought in Shawfield Stadium. And 20,000 turned up to see him fight at St Mirren’s ground in Paisley.”

Paul Moore, writer and producer of theatre play The Lynching: The Last Rounds Of Benny Lynch, says that the boxer earned around £5m in today’s terms.

“Yes, but he had no idea how to deal with that sort of money,” he says. “He got too much money too quickly.”

The Lynching looks at Benny Lynch’s life in flashback, focusing in on his talks with a Hollywood actress while both were drying out in Ireland.

“The play features a boxing ring in the theatre,” says Moore. “We use young local boxers to play the role of Benny and to show the sort of moves he was capable of. The action switches from the ring into Benny’s past. And it’s a tragic tale. The Benny Lynch success came with many costs.”

One of the prices of success was the loss of his mentor. “Benny got rid of Sammy Wilson,” says Sean Tobin. “Benny had his hangers on.”

By 1936, the boxer's personal life was a train wreck, full of people helping him to spend his money. His marriage struggled. The alcohol filled his waistline. He lost his sharpness in the ring. The flyweight found himself regularly battling the boxing scales, and often losing.

He managed to beat American-based Filipino boxer Small Montana in January 1937 at Wembley but over a marathon 15 rounds. Still, his fans adored him, and 40,000 paid homage at Shawfield Stadium to see him defend his title against English flyweight boxer Peter Kane in what is often cited as his greatest victory.

But the writing was on the wall. In August 1939, facing the 104th listed fight of his career, Benny Lynch was knocked out for the first time, by US-based Romanian boxer, Aurel Toma, in London. Worse was to follow; his boxing licence was withheld as he could now no longer pass the board's fitness tests.

Desperate for cash, Lynch actually went back to the boxing booths. And despite trying to dry himself out by staying with the monks for a time at Mount Melleray Monastery near Waterford, Ireland, his health was failing.

Benny Lynch died in 1946, aged 33 years, in Glasgow’s Southern General Hospital of malnutrition-induced respiratory failure. Some 2,000 people paid their respects at his funeral.

However, part of the reason the folk tale surrounding Benny Lynch continues is the conspiracy theories that surround him.

There have been arguments over the years that Lynch, a meticulous, self-aware dresser, would not have allowed himself to become overweight, that scales were rigged by bookmakers keen to bet against him fighting. That when Lynch was stopped from boxing by dark forces it increased his propensity to drink.

And Paul Moore suggests a theory that Benny Lynch’s demise wasn’t shaped by alcohol alone. “Research indicates he took a serious blow to the head during one of his fights and witnesses say this was the point his character changed. Benny Lynch became a very different man.”

True or not, it adds to the folk legend. Actor Bobby Carlyle, fresh from entertaining cinema audiences in T2: Trainspotting as the psychopathic Begbie, has his own theories as to why the Lynch legend has endured.

“I’ve known about Benny Lynch since I was a wee boy,” he says. “My grandfather saw him box and this legend was with me as a wee boy. And later, his rags-to-riches story really hit home.”

Carlyle, who took part in the Benny Lynch statue fund-raiser, says the boxer summed up the Glasgow character, a classic triumph over adversity tale. “I sympathised and empathised with him. I also started life with less than nothing, in the gutter, and anyone who has climbed out of it in any way, has my respect.”

Glasgow, it seems, is Benny Lynch. “That is the case,” says Carlyle, offering a wry smile. “But for the grace of God we could all be Benny Lynch.”

Sean Tobin agrees: “It’s hard not to feel sympathy for the man. His family came from Ireland – Glasgow is seen as the Scottish Donegal – and he fights his way out of the misery of his life, only to go back to it through drink. He ends up derelict, no money and no family. It’s a sad, tragic tale. And while people may say boxing is now ignoble, remember it’s still a sport in which people can fight their way out of desperation. And Benny Lynch was an incredible fighter. He was a small guy who moved quickly, he could dodge and land big punches.

“In those days there was only one World Champion in each weight division. You had to be special to become champ. His accomplishments in the ring were incredible. And when you think he came out of one of the worst slums in Europe, his success was incredible.”

There’s no doubt Lynch was the people’s hero. Thousands would pay just to watch him train. What should be remembered is there was no hospital treatment for alcoholics at the time. Lynch, today, would be looked after.

But there is no doubt Scotland has attached itself to Benny Lynch. “The Benny Lynch story has been the most dramatic and tragic story to come out of a sport in which drama and tragedy are common currency,” says Shane Tobin.

Every bar in Glasgow has a Benny story. “There is only six degrees of separation between Benny Lynch and every man who drinks in a Glasgow bar,” says Paul Moore.

“His is a story that had to be told.”

Wherever he went, however great his victories, Benny Lynch was always drawn back to the Gorbals, to the bars and the slums of his roots. The Gorbals created him, and destroyed the man it had made famous.

Benny, the world premiere, screens at the Glasgow Film Festival, on February 22 at 8.30pm. The Sunday Herald is the festival's media partner

The Lynching: The Last Rounds of Benny Lynch is at the Citizens’ Theatre from Tuesday, February 14-18.